Michael Hedges

Michael Hedges
Michael Hedges

Michael Hedges
Background information
Birth name Michael Alden Hedges
Born December 31, 1953(1953-12-31)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Died December 2, 1997(1997-12-02) (aged 43)
Mendocino County, California
Genres World music, Fingerstyle, New Age
Occupations Musician, composer, Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar, harp guitar, flute, harmonica, tin whistle, percussion, piano
Years active 1974–1997
Labels Windham Hill
Associated acts Michael Manring
Website Nomad Land
Notable instruments
Martin D-28
1920s Dyer symphony harp guitar

Michael Alden Hedges (December 31, 1953 – December 2, 1997) was an American composer, Acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter.



Hedges attended Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, studying classical guitar.[citation needed] It was here that he studied under his compositional mentor, E. J. Ulrich. Subsequently, from 1979 til 1982, Hedges was a composition major at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland who applied his classically-trained musical background in combination with various unusual techniques to the steel-string acoustic guitar. He covered a wide range of musical styles and was considered an extremely dynamic performer in concert. Michael made ends meet playing and singing in pubs and restaurants in the Baltimore Metro area during his tenure at Peabody. He was discovered in February 1981 by William Ackerman who heard him performing at The Varsity Theater in Palo Alto and immediately signed him to a recording contract on the Windham Hill label. At this time Michael was still planted in Baltimore, but plans to permanently move to California were in the making.[1]


Hedges' first two recordings for Windham Hill—Breakfast in the Field and Aerial Boundaries—were milestones for the acoustic guitar.[citation needed] He wrote nearly exclusively in alternate tunings. Some of the techniques he used include slap harmonics (created by slapping the strings over a harmonic node), use of right hand hammer-ons (particularly on bass notes), use of the left hand for melodic or rhythmic hammer-ons and pull offs, percussive slapping on the guitar body, as well as unusual strummings. He also made extensive use of string damping as employed in classical guitar, and was known to insist strongly on the precise duration of sounds and silences in his pieces. He also played guitar-variants like the harp guitar (an instrument with additional bass strings), and the TransTrem Guitar. He was a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, percussion, tin whistle, harmonica, and flute, among others on his albums. Bassist Michael Manring contributed to nearly all of Hedges' records.

Frustrated that his published work reflected only the instrumental side of his creative output, Hedges convinced Windham Hill to release Watching My Life Go By, a 1985 studio recording of Hedges' vocal originals written over a span of 5 years – songs often performed at his concerts leading up to the album's release.

His fourth album, a live recording called, Live on the Double Planet, was assembled from 40 of his live concerts captured from 1986–1987 recordings. Subsequently, Hedges earned the freedom to release his albums with vocal and instrumental songs alike, something his first album would have contained were it not for the direction of record label initiatives.

Hedges had a very broad range of influences and his output spans many genres. His musical education was largely in modern 20th century composition. He listened to Martin Carthy, John Martyn, and the Beatles, but his approach to composition owed much to Igor Stravinsky, Edgard Varèse, Anton Webern, and Steve Reich, in addition to experimental composers such as Morton Feldman. He saw himself as a composer who played guitar, rather than a guitarist who composed music. He was often categorized as a New Age musician due to his association with the Windham Hill record label. Somewhat in reaction to this, he would describe his music as "Heavy Mental", "New Edge", ""Acoustic Thrash", "Deep Tissue Gladiator Guitar" or "Savage Myth Guitar," amongst other terms.[2]

Hedges toured briefly as a co-bill with Leo Kottke. These shows included solo performances by Kottke and Hedges and, as a finale, a number of duets including performances of Kottke's "Doodles" with Hedges playing a high-strung parlor guitar.


Hedges regularly used the following instruments:[3]

  • 1971 Martin D-28 guitar (nicknamed "Barbara") with a combination of a Sunrise S-1 magnetic pickup and FRAP contact pickup under the treble strings
  • custom 1980s Takamine guitars with his name on the headstock
  • Lowden L-250 guitars
  • Martin J-65M guitars
  • 1920s Dyer harp guitar configured with a FRAP/autoharp pickup combo / reconfigured with Sunrise S-1 and two Barcus Berry magnetic pickups for the sub-basses (glued straight to the body)
  • Steve Klein electric harp guitar with a TransTrem bridge
  • circa 1913 black Knutsen harp guitar (often incorrectly referred to as a Dyer) with a FRAP/autoharp pickup combo—and rattlesnake tail wedged under the sub-basses at headstock

Hedges was left-handed but played right-handed guitars. Hedges would experiment with different pick-ups, effects, and amp combinations to achieve a different and unique sound for every song. Hedges was also able to precisely equalize his instruments for the concert hall in which he was performing. He used state-of-the-art equipment such as Sunrise soundhole pickups, F.R.A.P. and later, Trance Audio soundboard transducers.


In late 1997, Hedges died at the age of 43 in a car accident along State Route 128 in Mendocino County, near Boonville (about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of San Francisco). According to his manager and longtime friend Hilleary Burgess, he was driving home from San Francisco International Airport after a Thanksgiving visit to his girlfriend in Long Island, New York. His car apparently skidded off a rain-slicked S-curve and down a 120-foot (37 m) cliff. Hedges was thrown from his car and appeared to have died nearly instantly. His body was found a few days afterward.[4] After his death, his record Oracle won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.

Hedges' unfinished last recordings were brought to completion in the album Torched, with the help of his former manager Hilleary Burgess and friends David Crosby and Graham Nash.[5] Musician Keller Williams recorded a song in tribute to Hedges entitled "Not Of This Earth" and is featured on the CD "Breathe."

A fundraiser to help his children can be found at Nomad Land.


  • "I feel I can always hear his heart when he plays. He respected my playing too, and that simply thrills me." – Pete Townshend[6]
  • "Michael was unique. His music transcends genre and trend. It's truly musical, fun and enlightening.” – Steve Vai[6]
  • "His playing has a feel and timbre all its own – technically brilliant, but always organic and true." – Joe Satriani[6]
  • "One of the most brilliant musicians in America." – David Crosby[6]
  • "I considered him to be a genius and when he died I lost a great friend." – Graham Nash[6]
  • "There was simply no one like him." – Bonnie Raitt[6]
  • "He was a real musician who remained humble even through stardom. A rare breed indeed." – Alvin Lee[6]


Studio albums

Live albums

Compilations (solo)

  • Strings of Steel (1993)
  • Sounds of Wood and Steel (1998)
  • Best of Michael Hedges (2000–posthumous)
  • Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos (2001–posthumous)
  • Platinum & Gold Collection: Michael Hedges (2003–posthumous)
  • Pure (2006–posthumous)

Compilations (various artists)

  • An Evening with Windham Hill Live (1982)
  • A Winter’s Solstice II (1988)
  • A Winter’s Solstice III (1990)
  • Windham Hill: The First Ten Years (1990)
  • Windham Hill Guitar Sampler II (1992)
  • Carols of Christmas (1996)
  • Summer Solstice (1997)
  • A Winter's Solstice VI (1997)
  • The Renaissance Album (1998)
  • Touch: Windham Hill 25 Years of Guitar (2001)


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Michael Hedges — (* 31. Dezember 1953 in Enid (Oklahoma); † 1. Dezember (?) 1997 in Mendocino County) war ein US amerikanischer Musiker. Er wurde Anfang der 1980er Jahre bekannt durch sein kompromisslos innovatives Spiel auf der Stahlsaiten Gitarre. Sein Einfluss …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Michael Hedges — Datos generales Nacimiento Sacramento, California, 31 de diciembre de 1953 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Michael Hedges — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Hedges (homonymie). Michael Hedges était un guitariste acoustique New Age, qui se définissait lui même comme un « Acoustique Violent » (en raison de sa technique particulière de tapping à deux mains).… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Michael Hedges — …   Википедия

  • Michael Hedges (sound engineer) — Michael Hedges Occupation Sound engineer Years active 1990 – present Michael Hedges is an American sound engineer. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Sound and has been nominated for another in the same category. He has worked on over 70… …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Hedges (Begriffsklärung) — Michael Hedges ist der Name folgender Persönlichkeiten: Michael Hedges (1953–1997), US amerikanischer Musiker Michael Hedges (Tontechniker), US amerikanischer Tontechniker Mike Hedges, britischer Musikproduzent Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Oracle (Michael Hedges album) — Oracle Studio album by Michael Hedges Released Oct 1, 1996 Recorded Speech Hearing …   Wikipedia

  • Taproot (Michael Hedges album) — Infobox Album | Name = Taproot Type = album Artist = Michael Hedges Released = 1990 Recorded = Speech Hearing Clinic, Mendocino, CA Genre = New Age, world Length = 40:27 Label = Windham Hill Producer = Michael Hedges Reviews = * Allmusic… …   Wikipedia

  • Torched (Michael Hedges album) — Infobox Album | Name = Torched Type = album Artist = Michael Hedges Released = Feb 9, 1999 Recorded = Genre = New Age, world Length = Label = Windham Hill Producer = Reviews = * Allmusic Rating|4|5 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg sql=10 …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Manring — (* Juni 1960 in Washington D. C.) ist ein E Bassist aus der San Francisco Bay Area (Nord – Kalifornien). Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 1.1 Spielweise und musikalische Einflüsse 2 Technis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.